Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Dogma Is the Drama

Dorothy Sayers:

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as “a bad press.” We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine--“dull dogma,” as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man--and the dogma is the drama.

From “The Greatest Story Ever Staged,” an essay well worth reading.

How to Mortify Pride and Cultivate Humility

Here's C.J. Mahaney's life list of what he does to mortify pride and cultivate humility. His excellent book--Humility: True Greatness--comes out in a month.

New Orleans

Excerpt from the AP wire:

As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, the Pentagon began mounting one of the biggest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history, sending four Navy ships to the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, along with the hospital ship USNS Comfort, search helicopters and eight swift-water rescue teams. Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated region.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to use heavy-duty Chinook helicopters to drop 3,000-pound sandbags Wednesday into the 500-foot gap in the failed floodwall. But the agency said it was having trouble getting the sandbags and dozens of 15-foot highway barriers to the site because the city's waterways were blocked by loose barges, boats and large debris.

Officials said they were also looking at a more audacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foot hole.

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom were still trapped on rooftops and in attics.

The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area in one of the biggest urban disasters the nation has ever seen.

A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escaped Katrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets Tuesday, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.

"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is we have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

Blanco said she wanted the Superdome _ which had become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people _ evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.

At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concrete floating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only route for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.

The sweltering city of 480,000 people _ an estimated 80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed in over the weekend _ also had no drinkable water, the electricity could be out for weeks, and looters were ransacking stores around town.

"The logistical problems are impossible and we have to evacuate people in shelters," the governor said. "It's becoming untenable. There's no power. It's getting more difficult to get food and water supplies in, just basic essentials."

She gave no details on exactly where the refugees would be taken. But in Houston, Rusty Cornelius, a county emergency official, said at least 25,000 of them would travel in a bus convoy to Houston starting Wednesday and would be sheltered at the 40-year-old Astrodome, which is no longer used for professional sporting events.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was considering putting people on cruise ships, in tent cities, mobile home parks, and so-called floating dormitories _ boats the agency uses to house its own employees.

Once the levees are fixed, Maj. Gen. Don Riley of the Army Corps of Engineers said, it could take close to a month to get the water out of the city. If the water rises a few feet higher, it could also wipe out the water system for the whole city, said New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert.

A helicopter view of the devastation over Louisiana and Mississippi revealed people standing on black rooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting for rescue boats.

"I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshima looked like 60 years ago," said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by air Tuesday.

Russ Moore

Russ Moore's family is in Biloxi, MS, which was hit hard:

Christ and Katrina
August 29, 2005

I am from Biloxi, Mississippi. My family members are there now, enduring the brunt of Hurricane Katrina despite pleas to evacuate. As my father puts it, "Only sissies and Yankees evacuate" (I think this is sufficient explanation for why my ancestors lost the war). As I spent most of the night praying and flipping from Fox News to CNN to MSNBC, I am reminded of just how unnatural natural disasters really are. Read Full Commentary ...

Lig Duncan

Writes on his church blog:

Katrina Hits Jackson Hard

Folks, call Brister, Billy or me, if we can help you or any other member of the congregation. Water and power is out for many of our members and some are saying that we'll not get power until the weekend or later (I've even heard the date September 10th! Yikes). I'm able to blog, only because of iGo and T-Mobile. Wednesday night activities are cancelled for this week, along with all other activities through Friday - because the church has no light, power or water. Stay tuned for announcements pertaining to Sunday services.

Meanwhile, pray for the folks in New Orleans and on the Coast - what a disaster they've incurred. And help one another as best you can.


As I hear of updates with regard to ministries and friends hit hard by the hurricane and the flood, I'll post them here. Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters during this terrible time.

An excellent new apologetics, cultural-engagement website is online: Check it out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How to Help Those Suffering in the South

To donate toward relief efforts, Al Mohler passes along this recommendation: "I recommend the disaster relief program of the North American Mission Board [SBC]. NAMB is the nation's third-largest disaster relief agency, and their disaster relief ministries are both effective and trustworthy. NAMB and its teams have been asked to provide 300,000 meals a day by mid-week, and up to 500,000 per day by the end of the week. Here is a link for information and donations."

Rachael Grudem

On July 9, 2005, Wayne Grudem's daughter-in-law, Rachael Grudem (nee Freeman), 23 years old, was killed instantly in a tragic auto accident. Her obituary read: "She loved life and constantly radiated joy and faith in her Lord Jesus Christ, and deep love for her husband of three months." I attended her funeral, which was a deeply moving, tear-stained, Godward time of worship and lament.

Dr. Grudem has given me permission to pass along a link to the audio from her funeral service. (You can also download the whole thing as a zip file.) I was especially moved by Wayne Grudem's eulogy.

Life is but a vapor. Let us live, like Rachael, coram Deo (before the face of God).

Katrina and the Superdome

Michelle Malkin has an update on the horrible conditions inside New Orleans' Superdome.

Cal Thomas on Political Preachers

A good column here by Cal Thomas: Political preachers deliver misleading message. Excerpt:

Few would pay attention to political preachers if these ministers did not have access to television and radio. And they would not have TV programs if people did not send them money which, in addition to buying TV time, is used to set most of them up in lifestyles that resemble the "rich young ruler."

Much of what is proclaimed as G-d's will on TV and in fundraising appeals is false religion. People who respond with checks are either ignorant or willfully disobedient to what their spiritual commander-in-chief and the early apostles taught and practiced.

Conclusion: "Pat Robertson eventually apologized for his remarks about assassinating Hugo Chavez. His penance should be to retire and to take his bombastic conservative and liberal colleagues with him.

Adult vs. Embryonic Stem Cells

Steve Wagner points out:

Do No Harm now lists 65 diseases that are being treated using adult stem cells.

And what about embryonic stem cells that we acquire through the killing of innocent human beings? How many conditions are being treated using embryonic stem cells? Zero.
See his excellent one-page summary about neither overstating or understating the case for adult stem cells.

Shall We Still Protest?

The latest issue of Modern Reformation is soon to be released. They've put the following articles online:

Also included in the issue are articles by Paul Zahl ("Turning Romeward? Not an Option"), Daryl Hart ("Does Protestantism Have What Evangelicals are Looking For?" using Noll and Nystrom's Is the Reformation Over?), Tom Wenger's "A Brief History of the Papacy," and a proposed 10 Theses for Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialog.

Translating Truth

This fall Crossway Books will publish, Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation, edited by J. I. Packer.

Here are the chapter titles and contributors:

1. Are Only Some Words of Scripture Breathed Out by God? Why Plenary Inspiration Favors “Essentially Literal” Bible Translation

Wayne Grudem

2. Five Myths About Essentially Literal Bible Translation

Leland Ryken

3. What the Reader Wants and the Translator Can Give: 1 John as a Test Case

C. John Collins

4. Truth and Fullness of Meaning: Fullness Versus Reductionistic Semantics in Biblical Interpretation

Vern Sheridan Poythress

5. Revelation Versus Rhetoric: Paul and the First-century Corinthian Fad

Bruce Winter

You can read Professor Poythress' chapter here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Columbo Tactic

Greg Koukl--a gifted teacher training many to become winsome ambassadors of Christ--explains the Columbo Tactic he uses in conversation with unbelievers.

"Missed Church? Download It to Your IPod"

That's the title of a feature today by the NY Times. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington has some cautions for us.

Hurricane Katrina

Pray for those being affected by Hurrican Katrina. Lig Duncan reports that the power is out in Jackson, MS but he's safe with his family. Al Mohler will have Russ Moore as a guest on his radio program. Moore is waiting to hear if his family is okay.

further up & further in music

My friend Marc Heinrich has a new blog: further up & further in music, which "exists to provide what we hope are theologically sound lyrics and engaging music to the local believing community. this blog exists to comment and post on issues relating to worship, theology, culture, song writing, the arts, and etc. you are welcome to join in!!!" Check it out.

Fetal Pain

Over at the Ref 21 blog, I've posted some thoughts on Fetal Pain, Bias, and Personhood.

BTW, Carl Trueman is now blogging there as well. And Mark Dever is soon to join the group blog.

Recommended Reading

Here is a helpful reading list published by the Religious and Theological Students Fellowship.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

5 Paths to the Love of Your Life

My friend Alex Chediak has edited what looks to be a very interesting book: 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life. (You can read Chediak's intro here.) Chediak describes the volume as "an anthology that provides dialogue and context to the 'dating debate', allowing five of the most articulate voices on Christian relationships to be readily compared and contrasted by Christian singles, pastors, and parents. Here are a few endorsements for the book:

Dating is an issue of Christian controversy--and for good reason. This fascinating new book brings together some of the most important thinkers and writers on this issue, producing a dialogue that will stretch the mind and encourage Christian thinking. Read this book--it's sure to become a focus of much conversation.
--R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Recent books on courtship and dating have raised some difficult questions about the proper approach Christians should take for finding a life partner. This book lays out the major views and unpacks their scriptural arguments. If you're trying to understand all the views and think carefully through their biblical merit, here is the book you are looking for.
--John MacArthur, pastor and author

Alex Chediak has done the church a great favor by detailing in clear language the ways serious believers may think about the path to marriage. Though he shows there is no "one size fits all" in this adventure in discipleship, he helps the reader discern God's will by offering illuminating points of comparison and contrast among the options. Plus, the anecdotes and stories he tells make the book fun to read. In the future, I hope he'll try his hand at other issues where Christians may legitimately disagree.
--Ben Patterson, campus pastor, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know

Wayne Grudem's 1264-page Systematic Theology was first published in 1994. In 1999, Jeff Purswell edited it down to a 528-page version, titled Bible Doctrine. Now, coming this November, Zondervan will publish a 144-page version, edited by Wayne's son, Elliot, titled Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.

Here are the topics covered in this new version:

  1. What is the Bible?
  2. What is God like?
  3. What is the Trinity?
  4. What is creation?
  5. What is prayer?
  6. What are angels and demons?
  7. What is man?
  8. What is sin?
  9. Who is Christ?
  10. What is the atonement?
  11. What is the resurrection?
  12. What is election (or predestination)?
  13. What does it mean to become a Christian?
  14. What are justification and adoption?
  15. What are sanctification and perseverance?
  16. What is death?
  17. What is the church?
  18. What will happen when Christ returns?
  19. What is the final judgment?
  20. What is heaven?

I think that this would be an ideal book for Sunday School classes, and especially for memberships classes--as well as a wonderful tool for discipleship in the faith. Review and application questions are included.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Studying Theology as Servants of Jesus

This coming Monday I begin teaching a systematic theology class for our seminary-level apprentices. Here are two of the readings I'll require the students to read at the get-go.

“Religious Life of Theological Students,” by B. B. Warfield
“Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus,” by John Frame

I consider both to be must-reads for theological students.

Purpose-Driven Rwanda

Alan Wolfe writes in the Wall St Journal this morning about Rick Warren in Rwanda.

Media, Blogs, and the Rise of the Non-Event

Joe Carter has a good post this morning on the 24-hour news cycle and the creation of news: "How is it possible for a man whose opinion no one values to make a comment on a cable television show that no one watches and have it turn into a topic that no one can stop talking about? Because we have all become insatiable consumers of the media and when there is no news to report, the new product must be, as late historian Daniel Boorstin explained, created..."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

JBMW Responds to DBE

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is now online. The entire issue is devoted to responding to significant chapters in IVP's Discovering Biblical Equality, ed. Groothuis and Pierce, which is in turn a response to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Piper and Grudem.

You can read Peter Schemm's editorial here, and download the entire journal here. My review is found on p. 60 of the journal.

New Reformation 21 Issue

A new issue of the Reformation 21 e-zine is now online. Some highlights:

Jeffrey Jue, What's Emerging in the Church? Postmodernity, The Emergent Church, and The Reformation

Carl Trueman, Breeding Ferrets on Watership Down

Michael Travers, Review of Gilead

And on the Ref 21 blog, Derek Thomas tells us that Calvin would have been--or was in some sense--a blogger!

Walden Media Making a Movie on Wilberforce's Life

Walden Media--the folks behind movies like Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, and the forthcoming Narnia movies--has a number of interesting projects in the hopper. But this one looks the most intriguing:

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace is based on the true story of William Wilberforce, a British statesman and reformer from the early part of the 19th century. This feature film will chronicle his extraordinary contributions to the world, primarily his 20-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, which he won in 1807. He was also instrumental in passing legislation to abolish slavery in the British colonies, a victory he won just three days before his death in 1833.

John MacArthur: Guest Blogger

Phil Johnson has John MacArthur guest-blog for him today. (If only I could get John Piper to do that for me!)

It's a great post on Spoonerisms, preaching, technology, and communicating the gospel.

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

Carl Trueman argues that by neglecting the Psalms in worship, evangelicals have lost the language of lament. "In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christ was so absurd as to be comical--and yet I posed the question in all seriousness."

What should we do?

First, let us all learn once again to lament. Read the psalms over and over until you have the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax necessary to lay your heart before God in lamentation. If you do this, you will have the resources to cope with your own times of suffering, despair and heartbreak, and to keep worshipping and trusting through even the blackest of days; you will also develop a greater understanding of fellow Christians whose agonies of, say, bereavement, depression, or despair, sometimes make it difficult for them to prance around in ecstasy singing "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam" on a Sunday morning; and you will have more credible things to say to those shattered and broken individuals--be they burned-out bank managers or down-and-out junkies--to whom you may be called to be a witness of God's unconditional mercy and grace to the unloved and lovely. For such, as the Bible might put it, were some of you...

Second, seek to make the priorities of the biblical prayers the priorites of your own prayers. You can read all the trendy sociology and postmodern primers you want, and they may well give you valuable technical insights, but unless your studies, your preaching, your church life, your family life, indeed your whole life, are soaked in prayer and reflect the priorites of the Bible, they will be of no profit to you or anybody else.

And finally, as regards personal ambitions and life-plans, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross."

Carl Trueman, "What Can Miserable Christians Sing?" in Wages of Spin, p. 163.

The New Perspective on Paul

From Carl Trueman's lecture, A Man More Sinned Against than Sinning? The Portrait of Martin Luther in Contemporary New Testament Scholarship: Some Casual Observations of a Mere Historian:

Let us be quite clear about what is going on. These people define themselves not just by their careful exegesis of Pauline texts but also by their rejection of the Augustinian and Lutheran trajectories on justification. That is what they consider to be an essential part of what makes them so special, and what makes their contribution so important. What they are proposing in consequence is that the whole Western tradition has for most of the last two millennia been fundamentally wrong- headed about justification.

That is a claim which is staggering in its theological implications and awesome in its ecclesiological consequences. It requires that we be very cautious and careful before we embrace it with open arms. They could, of course, be correct; but surely these earth-shattering implications place them under obligation to deal seriously with the relevant primary texts of the tradition and to demonstrate in their analysis of them the same exegetical and historical sensitivity which they boast of as distinguishing their approach to the New Testament? To reject the entire tradition on the basis of am apparent bibliography that would look less than thin at the end of an undergraduate assignment is a move that can only be described as one of breath taking arrogance and awesome irresponsibility. Reject Luther and the tradition if you wish; but first make sure you know what it is that you are rejecting. And that requires studying primary texts in historical context.

This leads me to my final comment. The story is told of Bernard Shaw being taken to see the lights of Las Vegas late one night. 'It must be beautiful,' he commented, 'if you can't read.' I confess that the New Perspective approach to Luther strikes me a little that way. It too must be beautiful, but only if you don't know the primary texts. Its portrait of the Reformer certainly appears persuasive and impressive but that is because of the confidence with which it is presented to an audience whose culture generally considers novelty a good thing and tradition to be bad. A close examination of his theology in context reveals this portraits manifest deficiencies and palpable errors.

Read the whole thing.

Checking Up on the Scholars' Work

"The first point is a simple one: just because those who attack the Princeton tradition in general, and Warfield in particular, are world-renowned scholars who may be cleverer and better read than you or I, that does not necessarily make them correct. As with all academic books you read (and, indeed, any productions by members of the pro-Warfield camp such as myself), check the footnotes, check the sources, read the quotations in the original texts so as to determine the immediate theological context of particular statements. You will be surprised how often confident claims about this or that aspect of the Warfield tradition are based upon a less than sure-footed reading of the primary materials, a contrived and forced interpretation of a particular sentence, and sometimes upon no reading of primary material at all."

Carl Trueman, "The Princeton Trajectory on Scripture," in Wages of Spin, p. 96

A Hermeneutic of Trust and Humility vs. Tragic Arrogance

"I might go further and say that the church needs more than a hermeneutic of trust towards the creedal and confessional trajectories of the past. There is also a need for a hermeneutic of humility. As with the immature arrogance of those scholars who feel that their PhD on some few verses here or there in the Bible qualifies them to redefine orthodoxy tout court, so the church of today also needs to learn humility in relation to the past. When some creedal formula or doctrinal position has been held by the church with vigour for some considerable time, then the church of today should think very carefully before deciding to change it in any fundamental way. Our perspective is so limited; our moment in time so insignificant in the grand scheme of things; therefore, we do well to see the church's creeds, confessions and traditions as giving us some perspective by which w emay relativise ourselves, our contribution, and our moment in history. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard church leaders declare that 'the church needs to move beyond....' (add your own central tenet of the faith: the cross, the wrath of God, sin, the Trinity, justification by faith, the authority of scripture--I've heard them all cited). Underlying such sentiments are not so much a hopeless naivety but rather a tragic arrogance, and arrogance which implicitly says that the church in the past did not really get the gospel and that only in the present day have we approximated some kind of doctrinal maturity....
As a postscript to this section--for both church and academy--I mention a challenge I like to issue in class to students who are tempted to disparage the Nicene Creed: given that this creed has served the church well for over a thousand years, one should be very careful before one abandons it; but if after reflection, one can come up with a formula which will deal with biblical material as effectively, will enjoy such wide acceptance in the church, and which will do the job just as well for the next thousand years, one should not be afraid to propose a new formulation. Strange to tell, I have yet to have any takers for that one."

Carl Trueman, "Theology and the Church: Divorce or Remarriage?" in The Wages of Spin, pp. 78-79.

The Academy Must Reform Its Vision of God

"The first thing that the Christian academy must do is reform its vision of God. Only when academics realize that the God with whom they deal is the awesome creator, holy and righteous, yet also infinitely tender and merciful, will they start to approach their calling with the necessary fear and trembling that it requires. God is not the object of theological study, in the way that a laboratory rat is the object of biological study--something to control, to dissect, to observe and analyze in a disinterested way; on the contrary, he is the subject of theologica study, the one whose revelation of himself and whose gracious act of salvation in Christ makes theology possible. In him we all live, move and have our being. Thus, all theological study must be conducted in conscious acknowledgement of and dependence upon God. Theologians are personally involved in and dependent upon him whom they study. That must shape our work at every level."

Carl Trueman, "Theology and the Church: Divorce or Remarriage?" in Wages of Spin, p. 66.

The Wages of Spin

Last weekend I had a chance to read good chunks of Carl Trueman's excellent new book, The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historic and Contemporary Evangelicalism. As is the case with many books of this genre, there's a high likelihood that only the already-convinced will read this book. I hope that's not the case, as Trueman is a great writer who delivers some necessary exhortations to the evangelical church. Even when I disagree with him, he still makes me think, causing me to reexamine my view afresh.

Mark Dever writes: "I cannot think of a young evangelical writer and theologian whose works I more eagerly read than Carl Trueman." And Melvin Tinker refers to Trueman as having "the wit of an evangelical Chesterton, prophetic insight of Francis Schaeffer, and the accessibility of John Stott."

In the next few posts I'll provide some excerpts that have stood out to me.

The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher

B. B. Warfield explains “The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thinking About Heaven

Don Whitney encourages us to follow Richard Baxter's lead in Thinking Much About Heaven.

On the Reporting of Casualties in Wartime

If you're troubled by the number of casualties in the Iraq War, John Hinderaker's post here is well worth reading.

Robertson Apologizes

Statement (in part): "Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith

Offered by B.B. Warfield.

Pat Robertson

What he said then

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we are trying to assassinate him, we should go ahead and do it," Robertson said Monday. "It's a whole lot easier than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

What he says now

"I didn't say 'assassination,'" clarified Robertson during a broadcast of his "The 700 Club" Wednesday morning. "I said our special forces should go 'take him out,' and 'take him out' could be a number of things, including kidnapping."

He blamed The Associated Press for making him seem to advocate the assassination of a foreign leader.

"There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him," Robertson said. "I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time."


So no apology from Robertson. Just a lie.

God Is the Gospel

John Piper's book, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself is coming soon (in about a month, I believe).

Crossway Books has now posted the following onto their website:
Here is the book description:

God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

This book is a cry from the heart of John Piper. He is pleading that God himself, as revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection, is the ultimate and greatest gift of the gospel.

None of Christ’s gospel deeds and none of our gospel blessings are good news except as means of seeing and savoring the glory of Christ. Forgiveness is good news because it opens the way to the enjoyment of God himself. Justification is good news because it wins access to the presence and pleasures of God himself. Eternal life is good news because it becomes the everlasting enjoyment of Christ.

All God’s gifts are loving only to the degree that they lead us to God himself. That is what God’s love is: his commitment to do everything necessary (most painfully the death of his only Son) to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying—namely, himself.

Saturated with Scripture, centered on the cross, and seriously joyful, this book leads us to satisfaction for the deep hungers of the soul. It touches us at the root of life where practical transformation gets its daily power. It awakens our longing for Christ and opens our eyes to his beauty.

Piper writes for the soul-thirsty who have turned away empty and in desperation from the mirage of methodology. He invites us to slow down and drink from a deeper spring. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This is what makes the gospel—and this book—good news.

An Oil Crisis?

Why are oil prices so high? What should our government do? Are we running out of oil?

You have questions. Economist Thomas Sowell has the answers. For those who are busy, the answer are (1) supply and demand; (2) nothing; (3) no.

See "An Oil 'Crisis'?" Part 1 and
"An Oil 'Crisis'?" Part 2.

Is the Reformation Over?

Sam Storms reviews Is The Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment Of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom. Here's a blurb for the book by David Wells:

"A superbly researched, documented, and engagingly argued case that a new era in Catholic/evangelical relations is dawning. Less clear is why this has happened. Is it because of diminished Catholic identity, disintegrating evangelical theology, or the intrusions of (post)modernity which incline people to be neither Protestant nor Catholic but simply religious? It is hard to know."--David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology

What a SHAM!

Al Mohler reviews Steve Salerno's book, Sham : How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless:

Steve Salerno is a reporter with wide experience. As a freelance feature writer, Salerno has written for magazines including Harper's, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and many others. He has contributed articles to the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. Many of his articles have focused upon "money stories," that deal with financial scandals and controversies in the business world. Now, he is ready to report on the biggest scandal he has ever encountered--America's self-help movement.

Salerno writes: "In twenty-four years as a business writer and an investigative journalist, I have covered all kinds of 'money stories.' I have written about boondoggles on bankers' row and sleight of hand at Seventh Avenue fashion houses. I've written about the gyrations of the stock market as well as the myriad forces that surround, yet never quite explain, investing itself. I've written about money as it relates to sales, money as it relates to sports, money as it relates to music, money as it relates to love. It's safe to say that if it involves money, combined with some form of human aspiration, I've probably written about it."

Nevertheless, Salerno's experience in reporting still left him amazed when he confronted an industry whose story "represents the ultimate marriage of money and aspiration." That story is the rise and dominance of what he calls the "Self-Help and Actualization Movement"--identified in his book by the acronym SHAM.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Al Mohler on Pat Robertson's Comments

Dr. Mohler's commentary on Pat Robertson's recent comments are worth quoting at length:

All human beings are capable of making outrageous comments, fraudulent claims, and scandalous conversation. That is part of the human condition -- part of being a sinner. Language is a powerful gift, but the evil use of language can do great and grave damage.

This is painfully clear in the aftermath of Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson's comments about the potential assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Here are Robertson's comments from Monday's edition of CBN's "The 700 Club:"

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said of Chavez in Monday's broadcast of "The 700 Club." "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

With unmistakable clarity and an apparent lack of self-consciousness, Robertson simply called for an assassination, presumably to be undertaken by U.S. military forces in violation of U.S. law.

In so doing he gave the Venezuelan leader a propaganda gold mine, embarrassed the Bush administration, and left millions of viewers perplexed and troubled. More importantly, he brought shame to the cause of Christ. This is the kind of outrageous statement that makes evangelism all the more difficult. Missing from the entire context is the Christian understanding that violence can never be blessed as a good, but may only be employed under circumstances that would justify the limited use of lethal force in order to prevent even greater violence. Our witness to the Gospel is inevitably and deeply harmed when a recognized Christian leader casually recommends the assassination of a world leader.

Hugo Chavez is a dangerous and reckless factor on the world scene. His extreme nationalism, combined with Marxism, has led his country directly into conflict with the U.S. and much of the civilized world. He has befriended Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and given support to forces of global anarchy. Credible sources link him to support -- direct or indirect -- of groups involved in terrorism.

Nevertheless, Pat Robertson's comments lacked any indication that he even understood the gravity of his proposal. He has brought embarrassment upon us all.

I am thankful for every person who has been reached for the Gospel through Pat Robertson's vast ministry. I am thankful for his brave support of unpopular Christian causes. I respect what he has done through Regent University. He has been courageous in defense of many moral causes when others were silent.

Now, with so much at stake, Pat Robertson bears responsibility to retract, rethink, repent, and restate his position on this issue. Otherwise, what could have been a temporary lapse of judgment can become an enduring obstacle to the Gospel. Mr. Robertson, it's back in your court. Your Christian brothers and sisters must love you enough to tell you the truth -- and encourage you to set the record straight.

Christ commanded us to be wise as a serpent but innocent as a dove. In this case at least, it appears that Pat Robertson is as innocent as a serpent and as wise as a dove. I hope he will take Al Mohler's counsel to heart, apologizing quickly and unequivocally.


Sam Storms provides a fascinating review of Jack Cashill's new book, Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture (Nashville: Nelson Current, 2005), 307pp.

Jaci Velasquez

Sad and troubling news in the Christian music industry: after two years of marriage, Jaci Velasquez and her husband are getting a divorce.

Emerging Churches

If you are interested in emerging church stuff, it looks like the 352-page tome, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger--due out in December by Baker Academic--may be the best place to turn.

"Quite simply the best book yet on the emerging church."--Andrew Jones,

"If you want to be truly conversant with emerging churches, this is the book to read."--Brian McLaren.

Kirk Franklin

Hats off to gopspel singer Kirk Franklin for his honesty and humility in talking about his struggles with pornography.

Monday, August 22, 2005

C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur

Yesterday C.J. preached at Grace Community Church, pastored by John MacArthur. As Lig Duncan writes, "In my opinion, that is a sign of good things quietly astir in the evangelical and Reformed community today - new networks of friendship, kinship in the truth and cooperation in ministry. And it's something you wouldn't have guessed twenty years ago." Read the whole thing.

Russia's Orphans and the Father of the Fatherless

Russ Moore provides a gospel-centered piece here on adoption: Russia's Orphans and the Father of the Fatherless. (HT: Reformissionary)

Pro-Life Rap Video

Isn't it interesting that moral philosophers can marshal sophisticated metaphysical arguments and that legal scholars can craft legislative language in defense of the pro-life cause, but that at the end of the day, it may be the case that a rapper makes more of an inroad in advocating for a culture of life in America? If you haven't yet seen Nick Cannon's "Can I Live?" video, check it out, even if rap videos aren't exactly your thing.

Kathryn Jean-Lopez summarizes:

Cannon's new music video "Can I Live?" tells a tale that's very different from a gangsta's paradise of dirty dancing and booty calls that Cannon may be sandwiched in between on MTV or BET. In the song, the hip-hop pop star tells his life story — or at least the beginning of it and his mom's close call with abortion.

Cannon, 24, appears in the video as a ghost (or an angel, if you prefer) and sings, "Mommy, I don't like this clinic. Hopefully you'll make the right decision, and don't go through with the knife decision."

A scared teen, his mother was on a gurney — that's how close the call was — but got up, and, at least in the video version, ran.

He points out to his mother something she got on some level, or she wouldn't have gotten up: "That's a life inside you, look at your tummy. What is becoming Ma, I am Oprah bound. You can tell he's a star from the Ultrasound."

The video images tell a stirring, gripping story regardless of where you fall in the abortion debate.

Babies are being saved on account of this video. Cannon is currently collected testimonials for a forthcoming book.

The Deliberate Church

Tim Challies provides a preview.

Last week I linked to some glowing endorsements of the book. Here's another one, from the president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

As both a long-time pastor and current seminary president, I want to say simply and clearly: I love this book! I want to give it to all the pastors-in-training in our Masters of Divinity program, all our graduates now serving around the world, all the church workers in our denomination, and all my friends who love and serve the Church.

This is the most biblically directed and practically helpful discussion of “applied ecclesiology” that I have read. The Deliberate Church has a bit of the feel of Luther’s Tischreden (Table Talks); i.e., it is a young pastor-scholar (Alexander) listening to an experienced pastor-scholar (Dever) about the church and recording that conversation. This talk begins where it simply must begin for those committed to the authority of Scripture: namely, God telling us what He intended His church to be. Only when we have listened to that do we learn from Dever and Alexander about what the church should do. (Prayerfully, what our churches do will be directed by what our Father says we are!) And only then do we arrive where so many evangelical churches want to begin—thinking about how we organize our activity. Dever and Alexander guide us in a very practical way through the implications of the truths of God’s Word about the daily workings of a local church.

My reading of The Deliberate Church has fanned into a greater flame my ongoing love for the church. The book has rekindled my passion to serve a church in which the Gospel is central. It has recreated a longing for “a church that is an increasingly clear display of God’s wisdom and glory to the heavenly powers and to the surrounding community.”


President, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Camping Kids

Our family went camping this weekend. Perhaps you'll forgive a father for posting a picture of the kids, whom he thinks are pretty darn cute!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mohler Comes Clean

Hats off to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. for coming clean on a few of his addictions. We should all keep Dr. Mohler in our prayers.

Friday, August 19, 2005

C.J. Mahaney Is Not Humble

I break the news here.

The Deliberate Church

Here are the endorsements for Mark Dever and Paul Alexander's excellent new book, The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel.

“Here is one of the most faithful and insightful pastors of our time, addressing the most crucial issues of church life. Mark Dever refuses to separate theology and congregational life, combining pastoral insight with clear biblical teaching. This book is a powerful antidote to the merely pragmatic approaches of our day—and a refutation to those who argue that theology just isn’t practical.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This book is the perfect example of what a truly practical book on church health and growth should be—it gives concrete guidance for and examples of biblical principles being put into practice in the life and ministry of the local congregation.”
J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

“Rare indeed are books on the church that begin with the Gospel. Rarer still are books that derive methodology for building the church from the Gospel. This excellent book does both.”
C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries

The Deliberate Church shares many of the ministry lessons that Dr. Dever and his colleagues have learned from Scripture and sought to implement in the life of their church community. This book is for anyone who wants to get serious about following the biblical pattern for the church and is looking for down-to-earth practical help.”
Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

“Here is a novel idea: use the Bible as a handbook to gather and guide the church! And The Deliberate Church is a novel volume indeed, standing amid the spate of ‘church-as-corporation, pastor-as-CEO’ manuals that glut church life. Here is a book that wafts a radical, refreshing breeze from the pages of Scripture that will breathe life into the church. A crucial read.”
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor, College Church in Wheaton (Illinois)

You can also read Don Carson's foreword, as well as scanning the table of contents.

A Review of the Non-Reviewed

Tim Challies reads and reviews so much, that today he even provides a recap of the books he's recently read that he hasn't reviewed!

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ Reviews

Some more reviews of Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:

William Dicks @ Just Thinking
Travis Seittler @ The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese
Don Elbourne, Jr. @ Locusts and Wild Honey

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"The Defeat and Decline of the Pro-Choice Movement in the Foreseeable Future"?

Wendy McElroy, the pro-choice editor of, has an interesting article today at on the NARAL smear-ad of John Roberts. Here are some excerpts:

On the surface, this incident is remarkable enough but its underlying message is even more significant. I think it signals the defeat and decline of the pro-choice movement in the foreseeable future.

Senators will continue to debate; legislative battles will be waged on the state level; protesters will still scream at each other in the streets. But the very fact that NARAL -- America's leading advocate for abortion rights -- thought blatant dishonesty was the strongest card to play reveals a shocking depth of intellectual bankruptcy that is too common in the overall movement....

As a pro-choice advocate, I am ashamed of NARAL, an organization with which I never associated. I am ashamed of the anti-Roberts ad that typifies much of pro-choice rhetoric: a scorched-earth policy in which goodwill and truth are the first two items incinerated....

...The pro-choice side must acknowledge the legitimate arguments pro-life advocates have brought to the debate. For example, although I argue for legalized abortion, from listening to pro-life positions I now have profound moral doubts about abortion and strenuously encourage alternate solutions, like adoption.

She also has some good words about how pro-lifers need to be more vocal in condemning violence against abortion clinics.

On Being the President and Meeting with People

A superb op-ed in today's NYT by Edmund Morris.

Children's Books

Review of Most of All, Jesus Loves You, written by Noel Piper, illustrated by Debby Anderson (Crossway Books, 2004)

Reviewed by Justin Taylor

This 16-page children’s book is written by Noel Piper, wife of John Piper, and illustrated by Debby Anderson. The dedication to the book gives a little glimpse into their household and sets the stage for the book.

To Talitha Ruth

When you were small,

I would tuck you into your crib and say goodnight.

Then as I stepped away, I could hear you mulling over what you’d heard—

“Ma-ma . . . Da-da . . . mo-o-O-OH, D’SUS!”

You’ve outgrown baby talk now.

But may you never outgrow the truth.

The format is quite simple: Mommy, Daddy, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends love you—but most of all, Jesus love you. Included in the back is a “Most of All, Jesus Loves You” poster, showing Jesus welcoming a diverse of kids to himself.

My 23-month old daughter absolutely loves this book. She now repeats every line, with a hilarious giggle sound added to the end of it!

In reading it aloud, there’s almost a sing-song rhythm to it. And like most books of its genre, it’s quite easy to memorize! The illustrations are delightful. Debby Anderson has a unique way of illustrating childlike joy.

Highly recommended.

Review of God Knows My Name, written and illustrated by Debby Anderson (Crossway Books, 2003)

Reviewed by Justin Taylor

This 30-page book is both written and illustrated by kindergarten teacher and mother of four, Debby Anderson. The theme is God’s omniscient care for us. Scripture is not quoted directly; rather, each page summarizes a few key Scripture passages on God’s omniscience, totaling 50 Scripture passages in all.

I became more impressed with the book once I actually took the time to look up the passages that were referenced. For example, here were the passages cited in one of the sections:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Psalm 139:9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?

Job 38:16 "Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Here is the entry in the book:

When I hide in my favorite hiding place,

God can find me! Nothing can hide from God!

Even if I float far across the ocean, God knows.

He tells the waves where to stop.

He’s touched the very bottom of the sea!

Can you find the crab, octopus, starfish, snail, anemone, sea slug, and jellyfish?

It is a theologically accurate, colorful, entertaining book. And it passed the 22-month-old daughter test. Recommended.

Questions Not to Ask Adoptive Parents

My friend John Erickson recently pointed me to a great article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that deals with the questions adoptive parents often receive. Here are sopme of the questions that should be rethought:

“How much did he cost?”

“What happened to her real mom?”

“Why did you adopt overseas when there are so many children here?”

“Why was he put up for adoption?”

“Do you get to go to an orphanage and pick one out?”

“Isn’t she lucky, being raised by loving parents in the U.S.?”

The whole article is quite helpful, in both content and tone. Before I read the article, I compiled a similiar list of things not to say:

  • Don’t say that the adoptive child looks so much like the adoptive parents that he could be “yours.” The (unintentional) implication is that he’s not theirs.
  • Don’t say refer to biological as opposed to adopted kids as “your own.” The (unintentional) implication is that adopted children aren’t really rightfully yours.
  • Don’t refer to the birthparents as “the parents.” The (unintentional) implication is that the adoptive parents aren’t the parents. Use terms like “birthmother” instead of “mother” and “birthfather” instead of “father.”
  • It’s generally best not to ask about the birthparents or why the child was placed for adoption, even if you’re curious. The situation can be messy and potentially embarrassing to the child. For example, perhaps the birthparent abandoned the child. Perhaps nothing is known at all about the birthparents. Perhaps the child was conceived by rape. If the adoptive parents want to tell you about the background, they will.
  • Don’t ask about medical conditions of adopting parents. Not everyone adopts due to infertility issues. And even if they do, it’s not usually a wise question to ask!

In the past couple of years, I’ve heard most of these questions. It’s easy for adoptive parents to get bent out of shape by them, and we must all guard against an unattractive hypersensitivity. But let me suggest three reasons why we should seek to use wise, sensitive, and loving language with regard to adoption:

(1) Adoptive parents can sometimes feel inferior or self-conscious about their children. Saying something innocent like “So what were his parents like?” can reinforce the mistaken notion that the adoptive parents aren’t truly the rightful parents of the child.

(2) Adopted kids are listening, and the language can be confusing. A well-meaning stranger might say something like: “So what does her mom look like?” referring to the birthmother. Perhaps the child doesn’t fully get it yet. Her response will likely be: “But Mom, I thought you were my mommy?”

(3) I think there are theological implications for how we speak about adoption. A friend of mine who has two adopted sons from Russia often gets the question, “Are they brothers?” His answer is: “Well they are now.” And the response often is: “Yes, but are they really brothers?” The implication—again unintentional—is that biological brotherhood is what really counts. But there are spiritual ramifications for this kind of thinking, especially with the New Testament theme of adoption. We have been adopted by God. Therefore, we are his sons. Really his sons. Fellow believers are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Really our brothers. Really our sisters. We have been adopted by God, and He is our Father. We have been united to Christ, who is now our co-heir. By downplaying the reality and legality of adoption with our language, we might unintentionally undermine the presuppositions of the New Testament regarding the new family of God.

For a good sermon that addresses some of these issues, listen to my friend Russ Moore's sermon, "But Are They Brothers? The Spirit of Adoption and the Unity of the Church."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

NCAA and Mascots

You may have heard about the NCAA cracking down on team mascots and logos identified with Native Americans. Hugh Hewitt links to this superb response by University of North Dakota President Charles Kupchella.

Purpose-Driven Rwanda

Time Magazine covers Rick Warren's work in Rwanda.

Challies Reviewing Radical Reformission

Tim Challies is now blogging on Mark Driscoll’s book, Radical Reformission.

Theology for 4-7 Year Olds

Pastor Steve Weaver is recommending a set of books for kids aged 4 to 7 that looks quite good!

Recommended Reading

If you need some recommendations on apologetics, cultural engagement, science, historical Jesus, problem of evil, etc., Ravi Zacharias' ministry provides a helpful bibliography.

Dobson's Nazi Analogy for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Al Mohler blogs this morning about James Dobson, Stem Cells, Nazi Medical Experiments, and the Theater of Politics and finds the criticism wanting. Steve Wagner has more on Dr. Dobson's comments: "Right on Target": Part 1 and Part 2. See also Dennis Prager's clarifying column (which Dr. Mohler cites), where Mr. Prager concludes that Dobson said nothing wrong.

It's no surprise that I agree in the main with Mohler, Wagner, and Prager on this. However, I would add that one of the components of obeying Jesus' command to be wise as serpents may be that we remain exceedingly careful in drawing any sort of analogy with the Holocaust, even when it is true. We live in a day and age when the cultural rhetoric is inundated with inexact claims of parallelism between Nazi Germany and today (e.g., Bush = Hitler), such that to draw any comparison may simply be ineffective. I wonder if it's not time to think of more creative ways of making the case against utiliarian presuppositions. In some sense, hearkening back to the Holocaust is just too easy.

Another reason to consider avoiding the comparison is that we also live in a culture that does not think or read very well. (As evidenced by the widespread misunderstanding of Dr. Dobson's modest claim.) The Holocaust analogy is often perceived as code or boilerplate, with people dashing off refutations before stopping to consider the way in which the claim is being made. Again, I think we need to do a better job of coming up with creative ways to make people think, using the Socratic method and thought experiements.

This is one of the reasons I so appreciate my friends at STR, who are continually laboring to say old truths in such a way that provokes new categories of thought.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Operation Bless Our Troops

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a great new program called Operation Bless Our Troops, which I think is well worth supporting. Here's a description:

"We're proud of our troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. We pray for them, and of course, we're grateful for them. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is launching Operation Bless Our Troops to share the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way with these servicemembers." -Franklin Graham

You can help the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) share the love of Jesus Christ with troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you have friends or family stationed in these areas, send us their names and addresses right away! We will ship them a packet containing Now and Always: Songs of Hope and Praise on CD and our feature movie Last Flight Out on DVD. This packet will not only bless your loved ones, it will minister to those around them as they listen to the music or watch the film.

Send a Packet

Whether or not you have friends or family stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, you can partner with BGEA in sharing the Gospel with our troops. Your gift of $10 or more will help us deliver one packet to a servicemember faithfully defending freedom overseas.

Support Operation Bless Our Troops

Please remember to keep these men and women in your prayers as well, and thank you for blessing our troops!

The Truth According to Brian McLaren

Adam Ochuck surmises that Brian McLaren "seems to have learned the truth about truth." Read the whole thing!

Abortion Conversations

How do you respond when a woman objects to the pro-life view by telling you that she was raped and had an abortion? And how to you respond when a woman tells you she feels eternally condemned for having an abortion and that the guilty feelings just won't go away? Steve Wagner and Scott Klusendorf both offer responses filled with grace and truth.

Good for Newsweek

Finally, the MSM provides a counterbalance to the claims of grieving-but-partisan mom Cindy Sheehan: Newsweek gives an inside glimpse into President Bush's long, tear-stained meetings with grieving families.

Howard Dean

Howard Dean--every Republican's favorite Democrat--has had his fair share of wild assertions.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bad Women Drivers

You have stereotypes; Girl Talk Blog has the confirmation!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Theology of Global Warming

A helpful primer in today's Wall St. Journal on global warming, the politics behind it, and the lack of consenus surrounding it: The Theology of Global Warming, by James Schlesinger.

Friday, August 12, 2005

NARAL's Communications Director

...resigned today.

New Hymnbook for the ELCA

David Briggs reports on the ELCA Assembly meeting: "Then, after two hours of debate, delegates gave sustained applause for the approval of work on the new book that attempts to be open to different cultures and new musical styles. It will offer alternatives such as "Holy Eternal Majesty, Holy Incarnate Word, Holy Abiding Spirit" for the male-dominated Trinitarian image of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayers during Sunday services."

More Lincoln

Liam Neeson is slated to star in a biopic of Abraham Lincoln, to be directed by Steven Speilberg, based on a forthcoming book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It will start shooting in March of '06 and be released in '07.

(HT: Hollywood Elsewhere)

Sowell on Guelzo on Lincoln

Thomas Sowell writes:

Since Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, you might think that there would be no need for a new book about it today.

Unfortunately, there is very much a need for a new book on the subject, not only because of the gross neglect of history in our schools and colleges, but also because of the completely unrealistic view of the world -- past and present -- that prevails, not only among the ignorant but among the intelligentsia as well.

Since the 1960s, it has been fashionable in some quarters to take cheap shots at Lincoln, asking such questions as "Why didn't he free all the slaves?" "Why did he wait so long?" "How come the Emancipation Proclamation didn't just come right out and say that slavery was wrong?"

People who indulge themselves in this kind of self-righteous carping act as if Lincoln was someone who could do whatever he damn well pleased, without regard to the law, the Congress, or the Supreme Court. They might as well criticize him for not discovering a cure for cancer.

Fortunately, there is an excellent new book, titled "Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation" by Professor Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College, that sets Lincoln in the context of the world in which he lived. Once you understand the constraints of that world, and how little room for maneuver Lincoln had, you realize what courage and brilliance it took for him to free the slaves.

Read the whole thing. Professor Guelzo, by the way, is also the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. (And also the author of perhaps the best book on Edwards' Freedom of the Will.)

The "Gaming" Industry

I've often noticed that when I am interested in issue or product X, I am much more likely to assume that society-at-large is interested in X as well. Or if my interest in X starts to wane, I almost immeditately conclude that society is becoming bored with X. Sure, that way of thinking is pretty conceited, but I guess it's part of human nature.

Video games are a great example. I think that the last game I played with any regularity was Tennis and Skiing on the Atari--which was basically a series of computerized stick figures with extremely limited mobility! Not very state-of-the-art. I'm sure that if I started playing video games today, I'd soon become addicted (like most people who play). But honestly, video gaems have zero interest for me.

So when I hear about the popularity of video games, it's easy for me to dismiss it as a segment of addicted teens who go a bit overboard.

In Al Mohler's commentary this morning, however, he points us to (but unfortunately doesn't link to) a significant article by Christine Rosen, published in The New Atlantis: Playgrounds of the Self. Here are some pretty shocking statistics that Mohler recounts:

  • The vast majority of adolescent males are engaged in some form of video gaming.
  • Nevertheless, the average age of a video gamer in America is thirty.
  • Half of all Americans now play video games.
  • Over 90 percent of American kids from age two to age seventeen are regulars.
  • The average adult woman gamer plays 7.4 hours per week.
  • The average adult man gamer plays 7.6 hours. (These figures are probably very low.)
  • Almost 100 percent of gamers between ages twelve and seventeen have been playing since age two.
  • On average, these gamers have been playing for 9.5 years and gamers over the age of eighteen average twelve years of play.
  • The gaming industry "is poised to challenge the financial might of both the music and movie industries."

Rosen notes: "We have created video games, the new playgrounds of the self. And while we worry, with good reason, about having our identities stolen by others, we ignore the great irony of our own mass identity theft--our own high-tech ways of inventing and reinventing the protean self, wherein the line between reality and virtually reality ultimately erodes and disappears."

NARAL's Abortion Smear

NARAL has pulled its smear-ad which states that Supreme Court Justice John Roberts condones violence against abortion clinics. Glad to see the Washington Post editors calling a spade a spade:

"NARAL is certainly within its rights to disagree with the position the government took in the case. But the impression it creates with this ad is not an argument but a smear-- a smear that will do less to discredit Judge Roberts than it will the organization that created it."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dan Kimball on Emergent

Here is Stand to Reason's radio interview with Dan Kimball on Emergent.

What Is Justice?

Chuck Colson writes on the meaning of justice:

Three decades of ministry in the criminal justice arena have taught me that neither conservatives nor liberals have it right. The real answer is not an either/or approach; it is the biblical view, which embraces both the distributive and retributive models.

Biblical justice recognizes that both punishment and meeting social needs are essential to a just society. The Bible calls for punishment—which C.S. Lewis called "balancing the scales of justice"—not necessarily because it is a deterrent, but because justice demands it. But Scripture also demands social justice: Ancient Israelites were told to leave gleanings at the side of the field for the poor, maintain honest scales, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.

Secularists, both liberal and conservative, fail because they see people as objects—either to be punished or to be serviced—whereas biblical justice is much grander, viewing people as humans made in God's image. As the eminent scholar Neal Plantinga argues in Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, the world is supposed to work in a certain way because that's how God designed it. God seeks shalom, which in the biblical definition means not just the absence of war, but genuine accord and harmony, a society in which people care for one another, a "universal flourishing." "Shalom," Plantinga says, "is the way things ought to be."

The problem is that humans don't behave the way we should in order for human society to function as God intends. The crime problem is caused by neither poverty nor softer crime policies. It is caused by human sin. This is why the Christian view of justice must be aimed toward restoring the shalom that is marred by sin. It means restraining and punishing wrong conduct, but it also means promoting "human flourishing."

This is why Prison Fellowship developed what we call "restorative justice," teaching that we must go beyond punishing wrongdoers by reconciling criminals and victims, asking criminals to make restitution, and restoring offenders to the community. That's why, when inmates are released, Christians should be there to help them find a job, a home, furniture, and friendships—assistance that helps keep them from falling back into crime, assistance that will restore the wholeness of the community.

This is what Christians should be seeking in society. . . .

Read the whole thing.

Speaking Ill of Republicans

That's what Joe Carter is doing today. And I'm with Joe on this one.

Jimmy Carter: "Recidivist Fibber"

Note to self: Never publicly perpetuate historical lies about George Will.

Globalization and Cultural Segmentation

David Brooks, in his article today in the NYT, writes on how we are experiencing great cultural segmentation even as we are becoming more and more globalized:

Let's say you are an 18-year-old kid with a really big brain. You're trying to figure out which field of study you should devote your life to, so you can understand the forces that will be shaping history for decades to come.

Go into the field that barely exists: cultural geography. Study why and how people cluster, why certain national traits endure over centuries, why certain cultures embrace technology and economic growth and others resist them.

This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history - resources and brain chemistry - because that's what they can measure and count.

But none of this helps explain a crucial feature of our time: while global economies are converging, cultures are diverging, and the widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation.

Read the whole thing.

Horton on the Emergent Church

Stand to Reason's radio interview with Mike Horton on the emerging church is now online. (Free registration, I believe, is required.)

(HT: Jeff Downs. BTW, if you're interested, Jeff has started a Countercult Apologetics Journal that you may want to check out.)

God Bless America

So you've studied ancient or Koine Greek, and you're wondering how to apply your knowledge beyond the reading of Homer and the Bible? Well, it can sometimes come in handy when critiquing the leftist editorials at the Minneapolis Star Tribune! Check out the Powerline Blog for a delightful little post on verbal mood and "God Bless America." And may God bless you as you read it!

"The Island"

Over family vacation, we went to go see the movie The Island (which, if I'm not mistaken, is not doing so hot at the box office). It's a futuristic story about human clones being created for their body parts in order to be used by wealthy investors who want to prolong their lives. Michael Medved writes: "'The Island' is a smartly written, superbly well-acted, richly satisfying piece of entertainment despite an annoying tendency by director Michael Bay to go way over the top with his spectacular car crashes and chase scenes." Personally, I found the action scenes utterly boring. But I know some people get a kick out of such things.

The good, unique thing about the movie, however, is the overarching theme that human life has inherent, as assumped to mere instrumental, value. It's gratifying, and surprising, to see Hollywood doing such a film.

It led to a family discussion for about an hour after the film regarding the ethics of cloning and things like embryonic stem-cell research.

BTW, if you're curious for my positions, I think embroynic stem-cell research is unnecessary and immoral. And (perhaps surprisingly) I don't think cloning is immoral in and of itself, though due to the large number of deaths through experimentation that it would take in order to achieve cloning that works--along with the fact that we simply don't know the health risks that will obtain in the lives of such clones--I do not support cloning.

For more on these positions, see Scott Klusnedorf's critique of ESCR, and John Frame's short paper responding to unconvincing arguments against cloning.

So I can't say "The Island" was exactly my cup of tea. But when is the last time you watched a film that led to a lengthy bioethics discussion?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dembski's Blog

For those who don't know--I didn't--William Dembski (a leader of the Intelligent Design Movement) is now blogging:

Uncommon Descent: The Intelligent Design Blog of William Dembski

(HT: Faith Reform)

Desiring God Audio Book

Amazing enough, despite the fact that John Piper has written over 30 books, until now none of them have been turned into audio books. But now Hovel Audio, with the narration of Grover Gardner, has produced an audio book for Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. (Running time is 12 hrs., 20 min.) You can listen to a three minute sample, and/or purchase it through the Desiring God store.

Race, Imagination, and Empathy

Here's a helpful answer from Shelby Steele, in an interview he did for the book Black and Right:

C & S: Your work, as a whole, has emphasized psychological aspects of race and race relations. As you look at race relations today, what frame of mind and general attitude do you think people should adopt as they think about race and racial politics?

Steele: Well, simply, I think people should try to put themselves in the place of the other. We often hear whites say "I can't imagine what it would be like to be black!", but I think that's just silly. We are not talking rocket science, here. We are talking about imagining if one was of a particular race--and knowing what we all know about how that race is generally perceived--what would it be like? It is a matter of empathy. Sometimes we resist that, but when we enter into that we learn things about others and ourselves we didn't understand before. Of course, what militates against this is that it is usually to my disadvantage. In this politics that we have, it is to my advantage not to know what life is like for you.